Sunday, March 31, 2019

Robert Bluetooth and the Theology of Frigga


My role in our campaign is the guy who dies a lot. Not that I actually die a lot, but my characters die more often by far than the next guy along. There are three adult and three minor-age players in the game and the DM makes a point of focusing the stories on the kids. I think that’s a good idea.

About the deaths, I’m cool  with it. It’s like playing the special guest star. It’s good to try out different classes and different personalities and ways to approach situations. I can teach the newbies different tactics and strategies that way.

When I was handed the kernel of an idea for my latest guy, we knew he was a cleric and they found him digging latrines for a refugee camp. He was the toilet cleric.

So what do you do with a toilet cleric?

It’s been established in this campaign world that at least some of the gods are the Norse gods. Whether you’re dwarf or man or elf, you might have allegiance to one or another of the Norse gods.

So which Norse god would be the god of latrines?

I looked over several lists of gods, demigods and giants and it seemed most likely that my cleric venerates Frigga. She is the wife of Odin and the goddess of hearth and home. (Norse gods are not worshiped like Christians might worship, but rather venerated and paid homage to in a more purely-ritualistic way.) And I have played with this cleric to Frigga for several sessions now.

He is Lawful Neutral. He is into control and orderliness. His favorite spell is Hold Person, because it negates some enemies without having to fight. Additionally, once a person is held, it’s possible to negotiate from a position of greater strength.

So I’ve done a lot of thinking about this cleric and his theology. There is no real theology to speak of in Norse history. They have a cosmogony – a story of the beginning, middle and end of the gods – and possible rebirth, along with a structure for Existence. But there’s not a lot of theory to go along with it. I feel comfortable inventing my own.

My cleric’s name is Robert Bluetooth, named after Harald Bluetooth Gormsson, who was the king of Norway and Denmark in the 10th century. “Bluetooth” in this case refers to his clean white teeth that look bluish.

When already a middle-aged man nearing the sunset of military age, Bluetooth was on a walk in the woods collecting pine cones. There he encountered a lesser outsider – we would call it a hound archon. The outsider charged Bluetooth to go on a pilgrimage to the mountains and to meet with Frigga herself in her winter palace. Bluetooth was moved by this encounter with the otherworldly but initially refused. So he was visited by a lantern archon, a more powerful outsider. Only then did he begin the trek up the mountain.

It took nearly a month. He climbed from one village to the next. Scathi, the giantess who controls the snow, played tricks on him most of the way, but he persevered. Three days’ climb out from the very last village, he finally came upon Frigga’s winter palace. Lacking any evidence that he was expected, he parleyed with the giant at the gate and was eventually allowed in.

Within, he was received by Frigga. She was twenty feet tall and gloriously beautiful. Upon a great feast of ambrosia and mead, she explained to him that Surtur was coming for the people of the realm and that he was bringing the dark elf armies to plague the lands. It was important for men to put aside their material concerns in the face of the coming conflict.

“Surtur wishes to expand his domain. He wishes to control all of Midgard. And in so doing, remake it in his image. He believes he can create the perfect army from the ashes of the world.”

“Why can’t you stop him?” Bluetooth foolishly asked. “You are the goddess and he is merely a giant.”

Frigga smiled motherly. “Gods love and hate and rage and fight. We sing and feast and mourn, just as men do. Giants do the same, but they are not eternal. They can die in times before the Great War at the End of Time. But what we cannot do is enter into the world without your permission. We cannot make you love us, and we cannot force our way into your realm.”

“I didn’t know that,” said Bluetooth.

“The task of Men is to leave their neutral bent. They must choose up sides. For Creation is not neutral, even if the children of the four elements are often so. I’ve called you here to beg you to join the side of order. For if you do, I may then join with you.”

“Why me, goddess?”

“Believe me, you were not my first choice. And you won’t be my last,” she said cryptically.

She explained to him then that there is rationality, an eternal spirit. It has siblings as well: hatred, hunger and thirst, competition, lust, love, wrath and inquiry among other things. And each god has one or more of these in his portfolio. “This is why the gods can be eternal, for these ideals are indestructible. And it is why you mortals are our playthings: you are controlled by these base instincts in whole or part. Have you not been so controlled at times?”

“I have, goddess.”

“Not because you are bad, but because you are mortal.”

“Rationality is an eternal spirit. It is indivisible and indestructible. It is my purview and my animating force – my logos, my cause. But it only exists, my son. It does not act. The logos must be enacted by mortals. The cause must be put into action by you, and men like you.”

“But how? Will I be consigned to the cloisters and to poverty to think great thoughts for the rest of my days? Frankly that sounds boring, goddess.”

“Not at all. Cloistering yourself against the realm may allow you to master yourself, but it will do nothing to destroy Surtur. Remember, this is the goal – to preserve Midgard against the predations of the fire giant king. To allow rationality to go from idea and ideal to affect, it requires mortals to make sacrifice of themselves.”

“I have always made appropriate offerings to you and the other gods. This you know,” he said with some indignance extant.

“I don’t mean incense, figurines and the milk of goats. I mean that you must give a part of your soul to me. And in exchange I will infuse you with great magic with which to change the world.”

Bluetooth chewed some fat set in the fowl he ate with his bare hands. “My time upon the realm of Midgard draws to a close in less perhaps than half a score of years. Hel walks close. What have I now to lose? Valhalla? I’d rather serve at Frigga’s side, per truth, than feast with younger men for all the rest of time.”

And Bluetooth well agreed, and Frigga made him up into her champion – a cleric given over to the goddess.

Frigga is above all things a Lawful goddess. To master Frigga’s faith is to master one’s mind. This means always telling the truth, no matter how it hurts you to do it. It means to keep yourself from strong emotions to the best of your ability, and to never act from rage, or worse, from lust. But the mind is most mercurial. So the clerics of Frigga start literally by putting their houses in order.

This means keeping every campsite tidy. It means perfecting hygiene. It means to treat the sick and cultivate the land in ways amenable to Men. It means the faithful will build houses for the poor, and work as woodwrights, stonewrights, chefs. They build and civilize. And it means avoiding bloodshed when it’s possible, especially among the people of the common kinds – hence, why this Bluetooth uses Hold Person rather than flashier kinds of magic spells when he can.

Frigga’s magic has kept this cleric, Bluetooth, and his health’s improved as well. Perhaps he’ll have a score of years to go before he meets with Hel.

But not if Surtur hand his dark elf armies have their say.

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